Because the Moon grows from a new moon to a full circle and then appears to die back to almost nothing, he is associated with both fertility (producing new life) and death. There are also many stories that try to account for this waxing and waning of the Moon.
The people of Milingimbi in Arnhem Land in Australia believed that at the time of creation the Moon Man, Alinda, had two wives who each gave birth to a son. One day when the wives were out gathering roots and berries, Alinda sent the boys out to catch some fish for him. The boys went down to the lagoon but they could not find any fish. However, they did catch a whistling duck. Being very hungry, they quickly decided that, since they had not actually been asked to bring home a duck, they could eat it themselves and not tell their father. When they returned home and their father asked for fish they said they hadn’t caught any. However, he noticed the duck grease on their fingers and asked them how it came to be there. Fearing a punishment they refused to admit catching the duck. Alinda, who was also hungry, was furious. He pushed them into a carrying bag which he tied up and loaded into his canoe. Then he paddled into the centre of the lagoon and dumped the boys overboard.
When Alinda got home the wives asked where their sons were. Alinda said they had gone hunting and would return at evening. When the boys failed to come home for a meal their mothers became suspicious. They followed the tracks of Alinda and the heavy bag he had dragged along beside him to the edge of the water, and they soon worked out what had happened. Filled with grief and rage they ran and set fire to the hut where Alinda was sleeping, rejoicing at his cries of pain as he burned to death. But, even as they watched, the women saw his body come to life again as a thin crescent which slowly grew into a large sphere and climbed into the sky. From there Alinda announced that from that time the whole of the creation would die, and once dead, would never live again - except for himself. He would die for three days each month but would always come to life again. At full moon the Aboriginal people point to dark marks across his middle - the scars from the burns he received in the hut.
The Moon’s many disguises.
The formation of a ring or halo around the Moon usually indicates to Aboriginal people in Australia that rain is coming and the ring is interpreted as the Moon-man building a shelter around himself as protection before the downpour. The Tiwi people of Melville Island believe that a ring around the Moon shows the Moon-man is taking part in a kulama ceremony such as they themselves perform: the ring is the circle of heaped-up earth around the ceremonial ground and inside it the star people are dancing and singing the kulama songs just as the Tiwi are doing. This story points very clearly to the unity of earth and sky, where the same rituals and orderly procedures are being followed.
There are other characteristics of the Moon which are also explained in stories. An eclipse of the sun is usually interpreted as indicating that the Moon Man is uniting with the Sun Woman. Aboriginal peoples in coastal areas ofAustralia noted the connection between the phases of the Moon and the movements of the tides. At Yirrkala in Arnhem Land and on Groote Eylandt, the Aboriginal people believe that the high tides, running into the Moon as it sets into the sea, make it fat and round again. On the other hand, when the tides are low, the water pours back into the sea from the full moon which then shrinks to a thin crescent.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Australian Museums & Galleries Online, Australia; Centre of the Universe; Gemini Observatory, Hawaii; Glenbow Museum; The Manitoba Museum; National Research Council Canada; Planétarium de Montréal